BANGKOK, Thailand – Despite criticism by President Bush (search) and other world leaders, an unrepentant Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (search) repeated his charge that Jews control the world.
In an interview published Tuesday with the Bangkok Post (search), Mahathir stood by his earlier statements on Jews and said the global reaction "shows that (Jews) do control the world."
"Israel is a small country. There are not many Jews in the world. But they are so arrogant that they defy the whole world. Even if the United Nations say no, they go ahead. Why? Because they have the backing of all these people," Mahathir was quoted as saying.
Mahathir, who retires at month's end after 22 years as the leader of mainly Muslim Malaysia, often makes acerbic speeches against globalization and U.S. policy in the Middle East.
He triggered an uproar last week at a summit of Islamic countries by stating that "Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."
That led Bush to pull him aside at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting to say the remarks were "wrong and divisive," a White House spokesman said.
The issue trailed Mahathir to the APEC summit, which was to close Tuesday, where world leaders continued to criticize Asia's senior statesman.
Shortly before Bush and Mahathir sat down together in the same room with 19 other APEC leaders Monday, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said the American president "thinks those remarks were reprehensible. I do not think they are emblematic of the Muslim world."
Later White House press secretary Scott McClellan quoted Bush as telling the Malaysian leader face to face that , "It stands squarely against what I believe in."
After Mahathir's latest comments published Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said, "any attempt to divide this world according to religious affiliation is the last thing we want."
"We want Jews and Christians and Muslims of goodwill cooperating," Howard told a news conference.
The thrust of Mahathir's address, made at the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur, was that the world's 1.3 billion Muslims had been outmaneuvered by "a few million Jews" and needed to give up violence and think hard about greater unity and improved education to defend their interests peacefully.
Mahathir said in the Bangkok Post interview that his remarks had been taken out of context, noting that in his speech he had urged Israelis and Arabs to stop killing one another.
"In my speech I condemned all violence, even the suicide bombings and I told the Muslims it's about time we stopped all these things and paused to think and do something that is much more productive," he said. "That was the whole tone of my speech, but they picked up one sentence where I said that the Jews control the world."